Mental health: Gossiping, backbiting and forming factions is unhealthy

We all know of dysfunctional organizations, which can be as troublesome as dysfunctional families. Regardless of whether it is a school, office or church, if things are happening that negatively affect the well-being of members, then it is not a healthy organization.

The most beautifully worded mission statements mean nothing, if all individuals are not truly honoured and respected.

Gossiping, backbiting, and forming factions within the group is unhealthy for the whole, and damaging to the individuals. Unfortunately, these behaviours are often considered inevitable and unavoidable, and so nothing is done to address them. It is time now, that we began to bring them out of the closet. Many feel that critical comments or undermining behaviours do no harm if they occur secretly.

The fact is, the negativity that is produced slowly pollutes the entire atmosphere. It does not simply disappear into thin air. The first clue that these behaviours are toxic is that they don’t even feel good to the one engaging in them.

A healthy organization would have open communication, and hence, a process for dealing with problems and concerns. When issues were brought forward, the motivation would be to find solutions, not to dump on anyone. There would be an honesty and integrity that flowed from the top down. Most of all, there would be an attitude of caring that permeated the entire organization.

There are those who might say that this kind of thinking has no place in business, or that it is not the job of the school to help people feel good. This thinking misses the point. We are here on Earth to learn, and the relationships we have are the contexts for that learning. On the deepest levels of our being, we are accountable for all of our actions.

If there is toxic energy within your office, school, church, sorority or what have you, there are several courses of action you can take. First, you can begin to exemplify the above values, of honesty, integrity and caring. Refuse to participate in negative processes and state your reasons for doing so. Second, you might choose to discuss this issue with colleagues to raise awareness and get some dialogue going. Third, you may choose to speak with your supervisor, boss or leader, and request that this topic be brought forward at an open meeting. Do not become discouraged if you do not get a great response. Old ways die hard, and it takes an effort to be conscious.

If you alone move to a higher level of awareness, then there is one small light in the darkness. Light can eliminate darkness, but darkness can never overpower the light. Go out there and shine.

Gwen Randall-Young is an Alberta author and award-winning psychologist.

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